"To strengthen the ties:" Police officers, residents sit down for early Thanksgiving dinner

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Most people living on the northwest side of Milwaukee only see the police when something bad happens. An event held on Sunday evening, November 16th was an effort to change that -- with police officers working to spread some holiday cheer.

It was an effort to build trust and respect while spreading goodwill. Thanksgiving arrived early for Milwaukee Police Department's District 4.

For nine-year-old Jasmine, the dinner served as a break from the gang members fighting on her block.

"They just cuss and everything. I don't feel right around them," Jasmine Wright said.

The event put on by police and their community sponsors is about more than a free meal.

"It's to strengthen the ties and the communication and the cooperation between the police department and members of the community," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said.

It was an opportunity for members of the community to meet police officers in a more relaxed setting.

"The more we have of that, the less it's about the uniform and the role, and the more it is about the human inside," Milwaukee Police Captain Victor Beecher said.

During the event, volunteers helped Jamie Follett dress her kids for the cold. Follett says it's a weight off her shoulders to know her kids will be warm this winter.

"For someone like me, I'm thinking 'what am I gonna do?' What am I gonna do? It's getting cold out.' This is really nice. That is the answer to my prayers," Follett said.

Meanwhile, little Jasmine Wright said spending time with the police officers makes her want to join the force.

"I want to defend all the people that are getting hurt. I want to make sure the streets and everyone else is safe," Jasmine Wright said.

Churches and businesses within the community donated goods and services to make the event happen. They'll be doing it again around Christmastime.